16 Resources You Should Apply for to Grow Your Business or Non-Profit in 2017

Funding, credit, cash flow, and access to capital. Most business owners, no matter what stage of business they may be in, have and will spend countless hours pondering the money question. For good reason, many business owners, especially those helmed by women, count a lack of access to capital as their number one hurdle to growth and continued success. And while money does not grow on trees, grants and business competitions, whether national or local, are great sources of capital, mentoring, and exposure for businesses.

Business owners often turn to grants because they are not required to pay them back, but grants often come with stipulations on who is qualified and how the money can be used. Business competitions often take a lot of work on behalf of the entrants, but in addition to cash prizes, grants may offer invaluable networking, mentoring and exposure for business owners.

As you make your 2017 business plans, consider applying for one of these 16 grants and business competitions to help fund and grow your business:

PROSPECTUS Online Business Accelerator

The Walker’s Legacy PROSPECTUS Online Business Accelerator focuses on providing both the training and resources needed to build and scale businesses founded by women of color. The 9-week program utilizes an original curriculum, cohort model, and a structured learning environment to aid start-up and established business owners in advancing their business operations! Learn more and register today by the January 13, 2017, deadline here

InnovateHer Challenge

The InnovateHer Challenge is a business competition hosted every year by the Small Business Administration. Participants must have a product or service that impacts and empowers the lives of women. The challenge starts with local pitch competitions hosted by universities, accelerators, SBA Resource Partners, Microsoft stores and other organizations. Local winners compete in a live pitch competition for up to $70,000.00 in prize money.

Amber Grant

The Amber Grant Foundation awards one $500.00 grant to a different women-owned business each month, with one of the 12 grant winners being awarded an additional $2,000.00 grant at the end of the year. The grant honors the memory of a young woman named Amber who died at the age of 19, unable to fulfill her entrepreneurial dreams. There is a fairly easy application, with a $7.00 application fee, where you are asked to discuss your business and explain how you plan to use the grant. Applicants are encouraged to speak from the heart.

Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant

This is for innovative companies that are at least 51% women owned and founded on creating environmental and social change. To qualify, businesses must have been operating 3 years or longer and have under $1 million in revenue. Awards of $100,000 are given to approximately 10 women business owners each year.

FedEx Small Business Grant

FedEx awards up to $25,000.00 apiece to 10 small businesses annually. The application requires an explanation of your business, how you would use the money, and photos of your business. This grants seeks entrepreneurs with a deep passion for their business.

Mission Main Street Grants

Chase Bank awards $150,000.00 to 20 small businesses every year through its Mission Main Street Grants Program. Recipients are selected based on their growth potential, management team, community impact, and how they plan to use the grant funds. Companies must have been in business at least 2 years and have fewer than 100 employees.

Tory Burch Fellows

Tory Burch Fellows, selected through the Tory Burch Foundation, receive 3 days of workshops and networking with innovative founders and business experts; 1-year fellowship with support from the Tory Burch Foundation; $10,000.00 grant to advance their business education; and an opportunity to pitch to a panel of industry leaders as they determine one winner of the $100,000.00 grant investment. Eligible businesses must be early stage (1 to 5 years of operations) and generating minimum revenues of $25,000.00 and maximum revenues of $500,000.00.

Cartier Women’s Initiative Award

The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards is an international business plan competition created to identify, support, and encourage early stage projects led by women entrepreneurs. Six women entrepreneurs, one laureate per region (Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Middle East & North Africa, Latin America, and North America), are awarded every year. The award includes $100,000.00 in funding, business mentoring, and media exposure.

StartRight! Business Plan Competition

StartRight! is a regional business plan competition to encourage women entrepreneurs to write their business plans. The competition is aimed to provide support for women as they develop their plans through counseling, coaching, and specialized workshops. StartRight! awards a grand prize of $5,000.00 to winning business plans. To qualify, the business must be at least 51% women owned, less than 3 years old, and located in Maryland.

The Halstead Grant

Emerging jewelry designers should check out this grant. Female designers with businesses under 3 years old are eligible for this grant. The most recent winner was awarded a cash grant of $7,5000.00 plus $1,000.00 toward jewelry supplies and marketing via Halstead’s website and social media.

Open Meadows Foundation Grants

Are your entrepreneurial endeavors aimed at social justice? Open Meadows funds women-led projects that promote gender, racial, or economic justice. The projects funded must be designed and implemented by women and girls;
 reflect the diversity of the community served by the project in both its leadership and organization; 
promote building community power; and 
have limited financial access Awards are under $2,000.00 and applications are accepted in the spring and fall of each year.

Verb U/Dell Social Innovation Challenge

Verb U – the next chapter of the Dell Social Innovation Challenge – seeks university students and recent graduates to enter a variety entrepreneurship competitions run by Verb in partnership with global companies, foundations, and governments. The grants and awards vary by competition.

The Patrina Foundation

The Patrina Foundation supports social and educational nonprofit programming designed to meet the unique needs of girls and women in the greater New York Metropolitan area. Since inception, the Foundation has made grants in excess of $7 million to roughly 350 organizations.

The Miller Lite Tap The Future Business Plan Competition

The Miller Lite Tap the Future Business Plan Competition is an annual competition for minority business owners sponsored by Miller Lite and designed to economically empower minority businesses. The competition, which takes place in three rounds, is open to businesses that have less than $5 million in revenue and $15 million in assets.

The USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant Program

Rural Business Enterprise Grant Program is a competitive grant designed to support targeted technical assistance, training and other activities leading to the development or expansion of small and emerging private businesses in rural areas that have fewer than 50 employees and less than $1 million in gross revenues. Grants range from $10,000.00 to $500,000.00

National Association for the Self-Employed

This non-profit provides educational resources and grants. To apply for a grant of up to $4,000.00 you have to be an active member of the association, provide a detailed explanation of how you plan to use the funds, and demonstrate how the grant will support your business growth. Grants can be used for marketing, advertising, hiring employees, expanding facilities, and other specific business needs.

Shavon Smith


Shavon is the principal of The SJS Law Firm, PLLC where she counsels business owners on a variety of legal issues including entity selection and formation, employment matters - including wage and hour issues, intellectual property, compliance, contracts, and resolution of disputes. Shavon frequently speaks on business topics such as business and legal planning and regularly volunteers with various organizations to provide pro bono assistance to community entrepreneurs. She is a graduate of Howard University School of Law.

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Walker's Legacy is a growing global women in business collective founded to establish networks of empowerment and access for women of color in business.